The Definitive B2B Content Marketing Guideline
Content marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract, engage and ultimately convert prospects. Good content marketing strategies produce content which also enhances brand equity. Content marketing for businesses, or B2B content marketing, take it a step further by positioning companies as thought leaders and leading resources within their niche.
The steady decline in the effectiveness of traditional outbound marketing, particularly involving print and broadcast media, has compelled many organisations to experiment with content marketing. If you’re looking at implementing a content marketing solution for your business or expanding your current B2B marketing strategies, you’ve come to the right place. Our exhaustive B2B content marketing guide below will help you get on the right track for success.
What is B2B content marketing?
B2B content marketing is a branch of outbound marketing that draws the attention of or sell products/services to other businesses. Thus, the end-user of such content would be another company or organization.
Unlike the interruption-driven approach of old marketing, content marketing does not place a heavy emphasis on converting specific products or services. Instead, the strategy is geared towards providing prospects and existing customers with relevant, informative and engaging information.
Since there is no immediate sales pressure, the content will be more readily accepted and relied on by prospects and customers. Such an approach will help them to better understand their current and future needs.
Eventually, this nurturing strategy will help your audience to develop trust and an affinity for your business, products and services. In turn, this will elevate your position in the industry which ultimately translates to a steady growth in revenue and market share.
Content marketing reaches audiences using a variety of B2B marketing channels, ranging from conventional mediums such as educational articles, blog posts and emails to progressive mediums such as podcasts, webinars and videos. Whether you have an in-house content team or rely on a third-party content creation agency like Contentor, the old adage remains true: content, in whatever form, is still king.
What is the Difference Between B2B and B2C Marketing?
While there are many similarities between B2B and B2C marketing, these are also several fundamental differences. For businesses, understanding these differences is crucial to ensure the success of their marketing plans. Here’s an overview to show you the major difference between B2B and B2C marketing.
This might be surprising to some, but B2B marketing is actually focused on forming emotional connections with customers. According to one Google-CEB study, 50% of B2B customers are more emotionally connected to their vendors. In contrast, only between 10% and 40% of B2C customers developed emotional connections with vendors.
Moreover, the study also demonstrates that only 14% of decision-makers place a premium on product value.
- Type of Content
B2B customers are more receptive to educational and informative content. While B2C consumers do welcome such content, they don’t always rely on them since they usually make purchases to fill an immediate need instead of making advance planning. As such, purchases are usually impulse buys influenced by messaging, current trends, brand loyalty and social proof. The sales cycle is also significantly shorter.
B2B customers, on the other hand, plan their purchases ahead of time and rarely, if ever, resort to impulse buys. They make their decisions based on the long-term needs and direction of the organisation. So content that provides accurate and useful data and insights will always strike a chord with B2B audiences.
Major B2B companies like Boeing, Cisco and Oracle didn’t become market leaders by offering the cheapest prices in their respective industries. Instead, they provide value in terms of reliability, innovation and… emotional connection.
- Quality of Content
All content used in content marketing campaigns should be of high-quality. However, the level of quality is different for B2B and B2C audiences. For the latter, content is usually less formal and the language readability level is generally lower. For reference, when using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, content for general audiences should ideally be in the 7th to 9th-grade reading level (American). Moreover, B2C audiences favour shorter articles and visuals (images and videos).
B2B content though is targeted at a more sophisticated and educated segment of the market. As such, your content should be at a higher readability level to convey more complex ideas – especially if they are meant to be consumed by business leaders. Under the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, this ranges from 10 to 15 (secondary school to university).
Another good readability tool is the Gunning Fox Index. This readability index provides an even greater breakdown for tertiary level writing.
Nevertheless, be mindful that the difficulty score for most readability tests relies heavily on the number of words with three or more syllables. So any grading result needs to be viewed objectively.
- Sales Cycle
Owing to the short sales cycle of B2C marketing, measuring ROI is a fairly straightforward task. Blog or website visits, video views, click-through rates, conversion rates and sales revenue are easy-to-measure metrics that can immediately provide information on the efficacy of any B2C marketing campaign.
These metrics allow businesses to refine, modify and augment their campaigns in almost real-time. Resources can be allocated and diverted to specific channels as fast or as slow as the internal decision-making process is.
This degree of flexibility is however absent in B2B marketing since the sales cycles are typically much longer. B2B purchases and budgeting are usually determined well ahead of time, sometimes annually. Due to this, B2B marketing tracking, measurements and cost analyses must be spread over a period of time.
Advantages of Content Marketing for B2B Marketers
There is a reason why 89% of B2B marketers use content marketing – their strategy offers a number of advantages for businesses.
- Establishing Executives and Organisations as Thought Leaders
By generating unique, insightful and informative content on a regular basis, industry participants will begin to rely on you for information and opinions. By growing an audience that trusts your content and expertise, you and your organisation will become thought leaders within your industry.
- Demonstrating Authority and Trustworthiness
Consistent production of high-quality content will build credibility and trust with your audience. Over time, your organisation will be seen as a trusted authority.
- Generating Leads
A successful B2B content marketing strategy will indirectly entice qualified prospects to visit either your website or physical store to view your products or services. Since the targeted audience is already aware of and trusts your offerings, the conversion rate will be off the charts.
- Strengthening SEO
Search engines such as Google value authoritative content and reward them accordingly in search ranking results. Since the first five organic results account for 67.60% of all clicks, you can imagine what a boon this could be for your business.
In addition, high-quality content will also generate backlinks which are one of the strongest authority signals for search algorithms.
Finally, by dominating your online niche and keywords, your competitors will find it very hard to challenge your ranking without investing a considerable amount of resources and time – especially if Google’s algorithm decides to give you a Google Answer Box.
- Building an Educated Userbase
After being regularly exposed to your content, which might include blog posts, videos, podcasts, whitepapers, etc., your customers and prospects would have become familiar with all the features and benefits of your products or services. This will reduce support and query interactions.
What Type of Content Marketing Works in B2B Industry?
The short answer is, all type of content marketing can work, as long as your content is useful, engaging and factual. Let’s dive into your options, shall we?
- Blog Posts
Blogs fulfil two primary functions. First, your blog serves as the flagship distribution node. Practically all your content can be found here. Secondly, your blog serves as an SEO magnet and draws valuable organic and referral traffic. Since 61% of large organisations and 90% of small businesses visit the website of potential vendors, you can probably imagine the importance of your blog.
Infographics are essentially a visual representation of data. It uses simple images and numbers to break down complicated topics into easy to understand concepts. It is the fourth most popular type of content marketing around today.
- Gated Content
Gated content usually contains exclusive content not available elsewhere. However, instead of charging consumers for such valuable content, businesses simply require users to opt-in or register in a particular campaign or subscription. The registration or opt-in data are then used to create mailing lists or leads.
Videos are the most popular medium of content marketing, for good reason – 52% of marketers cite video as the type of medium with the best ROI. Videos are created to fulfil a variety of functions ranging from how-to guides to product explainers.
Podcasts are streaming or downloadable digital audio programs. They are a handy medium for customers on the go who wish to consume information passively. These days, there is practically a podcast for any subject under the sun. One 2019 estimate claimed that there were 700 thousand active podcasts online with over 29 million episodes.
Webinars are online events or presentations held live on the Internet. They allow organisers to interact remotely with their audience via video. Webinars have extremely high conversion rates and are considered as the best content format to drive qualified leads. An average of two to five percent of attendees will commit to a purchase during a webinar while between 20 and 40 percent attendees become leads.
- Email Marketing
Email marketing is the modern incarnation of direct marketing. Instead of sales letters mailed using snail mail, email marketing uses e-mails to communicate with customers and prospects. Just like direct marketing, email marketing is a conversion monster. Its ROI is $42 for every $1 spent! No wonder 87% of marketers include emails as part of their content marketing strategy.
- White Paper
In marketing, a white paper is an authoritative and comprehensive report about a specific topic, product or service. The in-depth content seeks to educate readers while establishing yourself as an authority on the topic. White papers are a powerful tool in B2B marketing – 71% of B2B buyers read white papers to help in their decision-making process.
- Case Studies
Case studies are supposedly real accounts of how customers overcome specific challenges using the vendor’s product or service. Owing to the seemingly genuine narrative, as well as the authentic examples and scenarios, case studies can be an extremely persuasive tool. Case studies are also the most researched content by B2B shoppers, which explains why 73% of marketers’ blogs publish them.
- Research Reports
Research reports are aggregate data and summaries gathered from surveys, market research, market analysis and qualitative research. It is usually used in STEM and big data-related industries. Research reports help to synthesize a wide array of data into actionable insights and conclusions.
- FAQs / How-to guides
Tutorials and guides such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and How-to-guides are must-have features for any website, blog, product or service. Not only are they helpful for customers and prospects, but they also lessen the support loads of organisations. Today, FAQs and guides are even created in the form of videos. In fact, how-to-tutorials are very popular on social media platforms such as Instagram.
What Are the Best Ways to Promote B2B content?
A very healthy majority of B2B marketers (92%) view content as strategic assets, according to a joint study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs. And yet, less than half (46%) have a documented strategy for content. Further, only 30% of B2B marketers consider themselves as effective with content marketing. The best and fastest way to improve your content marketing efficiency is by reviewing your distribution.
Your distribution channel can be grouped under three categories.
- Owned Media (website, mobile app, email marketing, forum)
- Earned and Shared Media (guest blogs, brand collaborations, social media)
- Paid Media (SEM, display ad, social media ad, native ad, influencer marketing)
You may notice the absence of print and broadcast channels. That’s intentional, since only 31% of marketers consider these channels effective.
Next, let’s take a look at the nine most effective content types for B2B marketing from the same CMI report.
- In-person Events, 75%: Include conferences, seminars, product launches, summits, talks, etc. The success of in-person events as a content marketing tactic is due to the opportunity to forge direct emotional connection between vendors and buyers.
- Webinars/Webcasts, 66%: Include online workshops, live classes and virtual training. Webinars have been a staple of content marketing for a long time. However, the ongoing pandemic has seen a dramatic surge of webinars. One platform even recorded a 330% year-on-year growth of webinars.
- Case Studies, 65%: Case studies give B2B buyers real insights into the buying experience and potential challenges they may face as well as benefits.
- White Papers, 63%: In a way, white papers serve as reference ‘books’ for buyers. They take the guesswork out of decision-making and implementation of new products or services.
- Videos, 62%: With the skyrocketing growth of bandwidth and broadband connectivity, content marketers are no longer constrained by download speeds. They are able to produce a wide variety of informative videos that appeal directly to their target demographic.
- Research Reports, 61%: Research reports arm business owners and executives with hard data and eliminate uncertainties from buying decisions.
- Newsletters, 60%: A form of email marketing. As we’ve pointed out earlier, email marketing has incredible ROI that can go up to as high as 4,200%!
- Blogs, 59%: Blogs (as well as guest blogs) are the bread and butter of content marketing strategy. They improve SEO and enhance search rankings, funnel traffic to money sites and serve as distribution nodes for content marketing initiatives.
- Infographics, 58%: The visual aspect of infographics helps consumers digest complex data at a glance. For marketers, the virality of infographics can also help generate backlinks that are extremely valuable for SEO.
Beyond that, businesses and content marketers should also pay attention to paid distribution channels to disseminate their content. 84% of marketers have used such methods over the 12 months. The most popular platform seems to be social media, of which 72% have used.
Content Creation Services: In-house vs Outsourcing – Pros and Cons
So you want to implement a B2B content marketing strategy for your organisation. The first decision that you need to make is whether to establish an in-house content department or outsource the work to a B2B copywriting agency like Contentor. There are clear pros and cons for either approach, as you will see below.
- Potentially lower cost, provided you already have an experienced digital marketing team. Otherwise, you will have to spend time and resources to get them up to speed while paying them for the unproductive hours.
- You will be able to ensure you maintain absolute control over your brand messaging. However, the same result can also be achieved by providing your copywriting partner with detailed briefs, tone of voice and references.
- As part of the organisation, an in-house team will have a better understanding of your company’s values, culture, products and services.
- Scalability is a concern, since it’s difficult to grow or reduce the size of your team depending on the amount of work. This could be particularly problematic during festive periods or product launches when the demand for content will surge.
- Content creation is a complex and exhausting process. It’s not uncommon for in-house teams to start out strong before gradually running out of ideas and motivation.
- An unclear content creation process could leave your content team isolated, with little or no access to the marketing and sales department as well as the client. They won’t be able to articulate the features and benefits of your products or services. Consequently, they will struggle to deliver relevant, timely and informative content to your audience.
- 64% of B2B marketers outsource their writing to SEO copywriting partners because the latter possess an experienced and dedicated team with the expertise to deliver specialised content within a short timeframe.
- An external copywriting agency has been exposed to a multitude of strategies and approaches from numerous industries and niches. This means they are well qualified to advise you on proven strategies. You won’t have to waste months and even years experimenting with different strategies.
- Engaging external copywriting services also allows you to have a shortcut to current B2B marketing best practices for your niche.
- Website content creation agencies have a flexible pool of writers at their disposal. This makes it easy for them to meet surges in content demand.
- Your content partner may not be familiar with your niche or industry. Worse, they may not have time to learn the specifics about your products or services. This lack of knowledge will prevent them from creating accurate content for your organisation.
- They may not be equipped to perform buyer persona research to ensure their content will reflect the right messaging. As such, it is imperative that you provide a crash course to your content partner and prepare a detailed brief for them for each piece of content.
- The two factors cited above might mean that your sales and marketing team needs to spend time reviewing and editing content produced by your partners.
- Your content partner may also face problems meeting internal SMEs (subject matter experts) owing to geographic constraints and scheduling conflicts since they are located offsite.
How to Start a B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Implementing a successful B2B content marketing strategy for your business takes a lot of time and effort. However, done right, content marketing can generate a windfall for your organisation. The key to a successful implementation lies in establishing and documenting your entire content creation process.
- Identifying Key Personnel
Identifying and appointing the right personnel to manage and run your content marketing initiative is a crucial step. Start by appointing the project lead, or decision-maker. The person will be responsible for the entire operation – not the business owner (unless they appointed themselves as project lead).
Follow that up by appointing a content strategist, editorial assistant, research assistant and content creators. Thereafter, appoint the right personnel to handle the distribution, marketing, reporting and analysis.
- Identify Your Audience
Persona development will determine the editorial direction of your content. Craft your hypothetical persona to understand the role of your target audience as well as their needs, budget and likely objections. By understanding your audience, you will be able to develop more relevant and persuasive content that will earn their trust and respect.
Use existing data from your customer database or CRM. Augment this with data from Google Analytics and social media analytics. Perform a competitor and market analysis using third-party tools (like Majestic or SEMrush) to obtain audience and buyer insights.
Use a combination of SEM and display ads such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads alongside retargeting technologies like LinkedIn Pixel to further refine the behaviour and habits of your ideal persona.
- Establish Goals and Budgets
Without goals and budgets, there is no endpoint to your content marketing. You will not be able to calculate ROI and devise a plan and strategy for your marketing efforts. Measuring metrics is the best way to enhance the efficacy of your strategy and improve your reach and conversion.
- Create a Content Strategy
Content strategy outlines the goals of your organisation, the type of content needed to reach your ideal buyer’s persona, the content creation workflow, the process of distributing content, and the metrics used to determine whether you’re hitting your KPIs.
Documenting your content strategy is crucial to your success. Without one, you’re basically just winging it.
Feel inspired? Speak to us today. We’ll help you start to develop a cohesive and actionable B2B content marketing strategy for your business.